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Garcetti, Cooley Court Ethnic Voters

Politics: Candidates for D.A. leave no cuisine untasted and no group unschmoozed in quest for support in this United Nations of a county.

September 17, 2000|MITCHELL LANDSBERG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Garcetti was invited to the event--attended by nearly 800 people, most of them young and successful--after his campaign called to ask if he could speak, Latino Professional Network co-founder Alejandro Menchaca said. Menchaca said the organization wasn't endorsing anyone, but that he personally supported Garcetti.

"I think he's done a terrific job as D.A.," said Menchaca, a law student at USC, Garcetti's alma mater. Moreover, he said, "I think he's very cognizant of his Latino heritage, and makes it a point to outreach to the community. I've seen him at a number of events, whereas I haven't seen Cooley."

But Cooley has been out there too, and not just in the Latino community. Like Garcetti, he has spent years building relationships in ethnic communities, and is taking full advantage of those ties now.

Cooley has bonds to the Armenian American community dating to his days working for former Dist. Atty. Robert Philibosian, one of the group's most influential political activists, and campaigning for former Gov. George Deukmejian, who also has Armenian roots.

And he has cultivated friendships in the Chinese American community by regularly attending meetings of two organizations: Chinese-Americans United for Self Empowerment and the Southern California Chinese-American Lawyers Assn.

At his fund-raiser in Monterey Park, Cooley sat down to an elegant Chinese banquet in a room filled with dozens of prominent Chinese American lawyers, judges and business executives. The event was organized primarily by Joseph Tseng, lead partner in a South Pasadena accounting firm.

"I'm supporting Steve because Steve . . . is very competent and he has a lot of experience, and we feel he cares about our community," Tseng said. "He understands the issues--the legal issues--in our community."

Both campaigns insist that they aren't pandering to ethnic communities, but are simply reaching out to the county's diverse voters. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), who is running for mayor and attended the Latino Professional Network party with Garcetti, agreed.

"To meet with the Armenian community, the Chinese community, the Vietnamese community, the Coptic Egyptian community; it's not that you're pandering to a particular community--that's just L.A.," he said.

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